“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” – Joan Didion
I started this blog about a year ago. It was April 14, my mother: the ultimate risk-taker’s birthday. I wrote and rewrote and hated what I wrote and worried about whether or not I had anything original to say and what people would think and wrote some more until finally I had produced a first blog post that I felt relatively okay about. And then I clicked publish. And then I shared it on Facebook. And then I spent the next three hours or so anxiously checking Facebook to see how many likes I was accumulating and reading too much in to who they were coming from (or weren’t coming from).
I repeated this process every month (okay, maybe I was a little tardy here and there), tackling a subject that made me uncomfortable with as much rawness and honesty and humility as I could muster. Some posts I felt great about, others I felt pretty “meh” about. Even so, when I look back at what I was able to get down on virtual paper over the last year, I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done as a writer, and as an aspiring adult woman trying to make her way as the star in the Sundance winning indie comedy of her own life.
I recently emailed my blog to my 78 year old Opa. He’s a handsome and brilliant man whose uniform is a sartorially genius mix of plaid, leather, fringe and paisley. I felt nervous sending him the blog: he’s incredibly well read and not exactly my target audience. But what he wrote back brought me to tears, knowing I had been completely understood. His response (dictated to and typed out by my far more computer savvy Oma), noted that the blog reflected my “passion for self-awareness”, and how my “search for identity” branched out from every project I reflected on. He called the blog an “exceptional piece of self-evaluation.” (The guy should really be writing more himself as he clearly has a way with words!). To say the least, I was touched, and was reminded of how incredibly well-loved and inspired I am by my family.
He’s right about the self-evaluation/search for identity thing, for sure. Every one of these blog posts, while shared with and – from what I’ve heard, to some degree – enjoyed by others, has had the additional benefit of being a form of therapy and catharsis for myself. As selfish as this may seem, I do this for me, primarily. But my hope is that in publicly doing this for me, I’m doing it for you too.
There are so many things we hide away. Shame is a plague that eats away at our flesh, keeping us in dark caves and on the sidelines of our own lives. I want to acknowledge that women and men and non-binary folks experience this shame differently. When I look back at some of the topics I’ve covered: coming to terms with my “volume” as a woman, my incessant need to please, my ever-so-present tears, resolving the conflict of my feminism and love affair with all things fashion, I recognize that much of my writing is about gendered experiences that may not always resonate with non-women (or all women!). I also experience privilege as a white/cis/able-bodied woman and this influences where I’m coming from in my writing. I will always and can only write from my own perspective and I recognize that this may contribute to some blind spots that I’m working to reduce. But I think we all experience shame in some way or another and I hope that I’ve managed to tap into perhaps more universal themes to which we can all relate. My goal is and has been, to shine an iPhone-flashlight on some of the struggles of becoming an adult that have caused me shame, through the eyes of humour and love and pride and courage, so that others may be inclined to do the same. It’s worked well for me in my efforts to come to terms with myself so maybe it can also work well for you too.
I want more of us to be unafraid to tell the stories we secretly know others need to hear. I want us to courageously expose what hurt us, what scared us, what made us buy froyo on a Wednesday night so the tears wouldn’t come. I know I’m not always doing the best job at this, but I can safely say that I’m trying and I want to get better at it (and any tips on how I can do that are more than welcomed!). And it’s really helping me. What would happen if more people tried too? Maybe a blog isn’t your platform. Maybe a canvas or sidewalk or album or garden is. I just know there’s a story inside of you waiting to be heard by another so they can say “me too” and come to terms with themselves a little better too. It won’t be easy, it won’t always be understood, but my guess is that you’ll feel a lot better after you do it.
I guess what I’m trying to speak to here is that in the year that I’ve been keeping this blog, what I’ve learned most about is the value in sharing the from-the-heart, uncomfortable, big life learning stuff I’ve been holding in. To echo the quote I opened with, I didn’t always know what I knew until I wrote about it. Even if what I knew changed, each post is a souvenir of what I knew previously. It’s been a very fulfilling process. And in reflecting on this learning, I want to add a bit of a call to action as well: create that thing!
Share your story. We want to hear it. You have no idea how powerful it will be for others and how it will impact your understanding of yourself.
I can’t wait to experience it.
Related side note:
Here are some books on writing/creating I’ve enjoyed recently:
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert (Thanks, Soph!)
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott (Thanks, Amy Poehler!)